Lianeon Weekly Topics | Chip Shortage Could Reshape Industry and Global Power

Week of May 9th

The Essential Three

The chip shortage is driving up tech prices–starting with TVs

Televisions, laptops, and tablets have been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people worked and learned via Zoom, socialized over Skype, and binged on Netflix to alleviate the lockdown blues. But all that extra screen time also helped set in motion a semiconductor supply crunch that is causing prices for some gadgets to spike—starting with TVs.

In recent months, the price of larger TV models has shot up around 30 percent compared to last summer, according to market research company NPD. The jump is a direct result of the current chip crisis and underscores that a fix is more complicated than simply ramping up production. It may also be only a matter of time before other gadgets that use the same circuitry—laptops, tablets, and VR headsets among them—experience similar sticker shock.

Looks like we are going to be stuck with rising electronics prices for some time. The severity of this shortage has the potential to remake the entire industry, the question is, who will emerge the global leader on the other side?

Arizona audit divides wobbling state GOP

Arizona Republicans have an opportunity in 2022 to claw back ground they’ve lost as the state shifted towards Democrats. But first, the fight over 2020 has to end.

Republicans in the state are still divided over the results of the last election, months after President Joe Biden was sworn into office. An ongoing and extraordinary audit of the 2020 vote count in the state’s largest county — rooted in conspiracy theories and the false belief that Biden’s election was not legitimate — is deepening the schism six months after the election, with no clear end in sight.

I have concerns about the political motivation to manufacture “evidence” of voter fraud, or at least to take technicalities and spin them to justify a polical ends. This is something to watch closely.

Govt Eases Up Guidance on Indoor Mask-Wearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a striking move to send the country back toward pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday moved to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

I am concerned about this move. We see many states and companies now easing mask mandates as well. In practice, this removes almost all masking, vaccinated or not. With 35k cases a day and 700 still dying every day, the move appears premature by a few weeks. Probably should have been contingent on another goal, such as 70% of adults vaccinated.

Healthcare/Society

Biden announces Uber, Lyft will soon offer all Americans free rides to COVID-19 vaccination sites

President Biden on Tuesday announced that Uber and Lyft will offer all Americans free rides to and from COVID-19 vaccination sites beginning on May 24 through July 4, the day Biden has targeted for the U.S. reaching a 70 percent vaccination rate.

While the U.S. vaccine rollout has been swift for the most part over the last few months, demand is dwindling. Some of that is due to general hesitancy, but access is still an issue. The free rides from the ride-sharing companies, Biden said, are aimed at making sure "transportation is less of a barrier.

One of many measures intended to incentivize vaccinations beyond the initial group of people that were very enthusiastic about getting one. It will be a challenge to achieve 70% of vaccinations of adults for sure.

Education/Science/Technology

How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?

The most vital societal challenge is to extend the longevity of humanity. At a recent lecture to Harvard alumni I was asked how long I expect our technological civilization to survive. My response was based on the fact that we usually find ourselves around the middle part of our lives, as originally argued by Richard Gott. The chance of being an infant on the first day after birth is tens of thousand times smaller than of being an adult. It is equally unlikely to live merely a century after the beginning of our technological era if this phase is going to last millions of years into the future. In the more likely case that we are currently witnessing the adulthood of our technological lifespan, we are likely to survive a few centuries but not much longer. After stating this statistical verdict publicly, I realized what a horrifying forecast it entails. But is our statistical fate inevitable?

One can argue that we have enough problems at home and ask: “Why waste valuable time and money on space ventures that are not devoted to our most urgent needs right here on planet Earth?”

Before surrendering to this premise, we should recognize that attending strictly to mundane goals will not provide us with the broader skill set necessary to adapt to changing circumstances in the long run. A narrow focus on temporary irritants would resemble historical obsessions that ended up being irrelevant, such as “How can we remove the increasing volumes of horse manure from city streets?” before the automobile was invented or “How do you construct a huge physical grid of telephone landlines?” before the cell phone was invented.

It is the purpose of this newsletter to restore fact-based reasoning in our everyday lives with a particular emphasis on the United States. Indeed, the failure for society to execute this will likely result in the collapse of civilization itself. The question is when. I love the last paragraph quoted here, something to think about when criticizing someone like Elon Musk for looking beyond Earth.

Economy/Business

Wall Street, FTSE 100 and European market fall amid inflation worries – as it happened

And finally... after a rather volatile day’s trading dominated by inflation worries, the US stock market has closed lower, despite a rebound in the tech sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped by 473 points to end at 34,269 points, a drop of around 1.3% today.

That’s the Dow’s biggest loss since late February -- the same as the UK’s FTSE 100.

Concerns about rising prices weighed on Wall Street ahead of tomorrow’s US inflation report, with factory gate prices jumping in China, which had already pushed European stocks into their biggest fall of 2021.

Why the inflation rate doesn’t tell the whole story – all it takes is a spike in a category like used cars to cause consumer prices to soar

Markets, economists and policymakers have been fretting about inflation for months, worried that the trillions of dollars being spent in recent and future government stimulus programs could overheat the economy and send prices soaring.

On May 12, 2021, the worrywarts seemed to have their fears confirmed when the April consumer price index shot up a seasonally adjusted 0.8%, the biggest jump since 2008. The year-over-year inflation rate of 4.2% is double what the Federal Reserve has set as its target.

Should consumers be concerned?

As these things go, inflation is not the concern, but the expectation of inflation t is. All of this media talk of inflation is more likely to create the problem than the economic fundamentals are.

Massive replenishment begins to ease U.S. fuel shortages after hack

Widespread gasoline shortages along the U.S. East Coast began to ease slightly on Saturday as the nation's biggest fuel pipeline ramped up operations following last week's cyberattack, and ships and trucks were deployed to fill up dry storage tanks.

The six-day Colonial Pipeline shutdown was the most disruptive cyberattack on record, triggering widespread panic buying by U.S. motorists that left filling stations across the U.S. Southeast out of gas. read more

IRS to the rescue? Tax audits eyed for infrastructure cash

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans say they won’t raise taxes on corporations. Democrats say they won’t raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year. So who is going to pay for the big public works boost that lawmakers and President Joe Biden say is necessary for the country?

Enter the IRS.

Biden is proposing that Congress build up the depleted and often-maligned agency, saying that a more aggressive collection of unpaid taxes could help cover the cost of his multitrillion-dollar plan to boost infrastructure, families and education. More resources to boost audits of businesses, estates and the wealthy would raise $700 billion over 10 years, the White House estimates.

This would seem like a politically popular position to take and easy for both sides to get behind. The GOP doesn’t have to raise taxes and it gets to say it stands behind law and order, while the Dems can argue that they are cracking down on the wealthy and using the funds for the public good.

Expect wealthy powerful interests to phone their Representatives. Its fair to say that if this measures dies, that is, the enforcement of existing tax law does pass, there may be no hope for restoring the tax code to some sense of reasonableness in our lifetimes.

Policy/Politics

Arizona governor signs controversial election bill into law

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday signed into law a controversial bill that would remove some people from the state’s permanent early voter list.

Ducey touted the new law as a victory for "election integrity" and cast it as part of Arizona's efforts to "continuously" refine its voter system.

"Arizona has for years continuously improved and refined our election laws ⁠— including intuitively renaming 'absentee' voting to 'early' voting ⁠— and constantly seeking to strengthen the security and integrity of our elections," Ducey said in a tweet sharing a video of the bill's signing.

"S.B 1485 ensures Arizona remains a leader for inclusive, accessible, efficient and secure election administration," he added.

Joe Biden’s Venmo account discovered in ‘less than 10 minutes’ – report

Venmo accounts for Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden were removed on Friday after BuzzFeed News said it easily found the US president on the payment app – a discovery it said raised national security questions.

The website went looking for Biden’s account after it was mentioned in a New York Times report on White House conditions and working practices.

America needs to start taking online privacy and security seriously.

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